BŌSŌ TOKYO jazzes up Shibuya Scramble Crossing with XR and NFTs – an interview with the pioneers in unprecedented project

Left: Afromance (BŌSŌ TOKYO), Ten-Chan(MADworld) and Discont (Psychic VR Lab), who worked on “Shibuya Scramble Layer”

An unprecedented “urban XR entertainment” will take place at the Scramble Crossing in Shibuya, Tokyo, in a project called “Shibuya Scramble Layer,” which will run for about a month starting October 15, 2022.

Upon launching the “STYLY” app, users can experience XR content such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) simply by pointing their smartphone camera at the streets of Shibuya.  The “QFRONT Building” located at the entrance of Shibuya Center Street will be transformed into a slot machine game.

The Scramble Crossing in Shibuya is the cultural center of Japan, and above it, this project creates a mysterious space that fuses the real and virtual worlds. It is a unique experiment in which the space can be purchased as an NFT.

This project is a collaboration between “Psychic VR Lab,” the developer of STYLY, the high-profile NFT brand from Japan “BŌSŌ TOKYO (暴走東京),” and “MADworld,” a Hong Kong-based company devoted to bringing different cultures into the Web3 space.

We talked to the people from Psychic VR Lab, BŌSŌ TOKYO, and MADworld about the ideas behind this unique, global project and how it will develop.

■The reason why we turned the QFRONT building into a “slot machine”

– What is the “Shibuya Scramble Layer” project?

Ms. Ten-Chan, Head of MADworld Japan : This time, Psychic VR Lab is launching a new project called “METADIMENSIONS,” which is the world’s first attempt to sell XR space as NFT. As a first step, MADworld and BŌSŌ TOKYO collaborated on a project at the Shibuya Scramble Crossing and that is the “Shibuya Scramble Layer.”

Mr. Discont, Producer and Director of Psychic VR Lab (hereinafter referred to as “Discont”): METADIMENSIONS is a project that enhances the value of space by adding a new digital layer on top of a real city and placing various artworks and contents on it. We will start with the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. In the future, we would like to expand it to Osaka, Fukuoka, and all over Japan, as well as overseas locations such as New York and London.

– It is novel that the QFRONT building facing the Shibuya Scramble Crossing will become a “slot machine” with XR technology.

Mr. Afromance, Creative Director of BŌSŌ TOKYO (hereinafter referred to as “Afromance”): There are many AR and XR projects out there, but it is difficult to convey to the general public how amazing they are technically. So when we were thinking about how to get them interested in experiencing XR, we came up with the idea like “Wouldn’t it be fun to turn QFRONT into a slot machine”?

Ten-Chan: It would be strange in the real world to turn a building into a slot machine, but by using XR in this project, a crazy atmosphere can be experienced in a realistic way. The concept of this project is to provide a realistic experience even though it is virtual.

Afromance: I asked Hidetaka Tenjin, who draws the illustrations for BŌSŌ TOKYO, to draw the slot machine for this project, and he said, “It’s crazy and interesting,” and drew it with great speed and moreover, with a unique taste that you can’t find anywhere else.  

■Seamlessly move between the real and virtual worlds

– It’s a slot machine with a novel design.

Ten-Chan: I am sure it will delight and excite people who will see this at the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. I think it is important to have people who are not familiar with XR to experience it and actually feel it first-hand.

Afromance: The interesting part is that you have to go to the Shibuya Scramble Crossing to experience it.

Ten-Chan: Such seamless moves back and forth between the real and virtual worlds are a key concept from a Web3 perspective.

Afromance: For example, when the slots displayed on the XR screen are spinning and your eyes are following them, you can take a screenshot of it and upload it to Twitter, so that you could even win an NFT by lottery. We can think of this as a trick to go beyond AR and XR and give something back to people in the real world.

– It’s a very interesting idea for a project. Were there any technical difficulties during its development?

Discont: Since this is the first “METADIMENSIONS” project, it was difficult to verify all technical aspects ahead of time, so we were experimenting while at the same time creating the project. In order to bring out the fun of XR, it is very important to link it with reality naturally. For this project, we also made sure that the building signage on the XR matches the shape of the signage in real life.

Ten-Chan: The production team is really good, and they all worked very hard.

Afromance: In terms of the fun of XR, there are actually “hidden elements” in addition to the slot machine – sometimes if you tap on a certain area on the screen it will cause something to change.

Ten-Chan: You can play with these hidden elements for a whole month, so it would be great to have people actually come to the Shibuya Scramble Crossing and share their experiences there.

■A “new experience” of buying NFTs that is tied to the earth’s spatial axis

 Another point you made this time is “NFT-ization of space” – what is that?

Discont: For example, if there are 3D figures or XR stickers in this space, they can be purchased individually as NFTs. So objects like public art that exist in the city can be purchased in the form of NFTs.

– So that would mean something of this kind has never been tried before, and it is probably the first of its kind in the world?

Discont: Yes. I think the idea of combining NFTs with the 3-dimensional space of the earth is new. It can be a character sitting on top of a building in Shibuya, or a figure straddling a building. People can purchase NFTs in a way that is tied to the space and have a sense of ownership, which is a new experience.

-So, from the perspective of BŌSŌ TOKYO, what is the significance of this project?

Afromance: BŌSŌ TOKYO itself is not only a two-dimensional PFP art, but ultimately aims to become an identity brand for the metaverse era. In the future, we would like to collaborate with artists in the metaverse to hold music events and focus on real fashion as well. We want to create a brand that integrates the real and virtual worlds in one place, so initiatives like this that move between the real and virtual worlds are exactly what we want to do. And I thought it would be very interesting -that’s why we joined it.

– I don’t think the habit of buying and using NFTs in a 3-dimensional metaverse has become common yet, but it would be interesting to see a transitional experiment like this one, where people “buy NFTs while experiencing XR.”

Afromance: In reality, people will not look at XR just because you have made one –  they need motivation. In such circumstances, “hack the Shibuya Scramble Crossing with XR” may give greater motivation, and I would be thrilled if similar things can be done in more cities.

Ten-Chan: Definitely. It would be interesting if people will go to a particular city just to experience XR, like “Oh, they came to our town. I want to experience it!”

Afromance: It’s like visiting various places in Japan, and collecting XR that can only be seen there, or NFTs that can only be obtained there.

Ten-Chan: It’s like a limited-edition product that you have to go to some place to get.

Afromance: It will be interesting if NFTs become as casual as souvenirs from travel destinations. Just as it is natural to take souvenir photos when you go on a trip, it will become commonplace to enjoy the XR of the city you visit and buy the NFTs there as a souvenir. Maybe it will become a reality in 5 years or so.

■Second and third collaborations in the pipeline

-There seem to be a lot of possibilities. What plans do you have for the future?

Ten-Chan: As this event is going on, RAX World, an affiliate of MADworld, will issue free-to-mint NFTs for the snowboarder Ayumu Hirano, and we have prepared 100 of them for this event to be given away by lottery.

Discont: Following the collaboration with BŌSŌ TOKYO and MADworld, METADIMENSIONS will have second and third collaborations with various NFT brands. We hope to enhance the value of the digital layer at the Shibuya Scramble Crossing together.

Afromance: BŌSŌ TOKYO would like to hold more real world events, especially those involving musical acts in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Shanghai. I think it would be great if I can fuse a music event with this kind of XR experience in the future.